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In engineering, what really matters?


 sometimes wonder if the specifications we create are really any different than the bricks I’ve seen used as doorstops from time to time. I also sometimes wonder what is relevant, what is related, and whose job is it, and would (should) we, as engineers, do things the same way and with the same passion and integrity even if no one is watching? The answers I come up with are usually the same: Everything we do is relevant, it is all related, and having two sets of standards is dangerous, confusing, and unethical. After all, we are engineers, not politicians. But I digress.

Contract documents are comprised of a set of design drawings and project manuals. Project manuals include general and supplemental conditions of the contract along with various specification divisions. Engineering sections were confined to CSI MasterFormat Divisions 15 and 16 years ago, but are now more frequently included in the newer CSI format of Divisions 21, 22, 23, 26, 27, and 28. Many engineering firms have a master specification for each section that includes normally specified materials and items. Some firms develop these in-house while others use specification software created by third-party companies. All good so far.

One of our tasks as engineers is to create specifications that match our project design. How do we do this? Usually by editing the master specification sections to include necessary components. But what do you do when your project has features outside of the norm? Perhaps you need stainless steel pipe or type 316L welded ductwork. Do you just call it out and hope for the best or actually add it to the specifications? What should you do? Do what is easiest and deal with it later, or do what your client views as your obligation?

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